We meet the animal that we are in the bathroom. Despite the soft, white, scented Charmin’ tissue paper that we wipe ourselves with, what leaves our bodies is stinky, sticky and dark, the color and texture of muddy earth.
C. G. Jung suggested that the bathroom is the room where we most encounter our instinctual selves, thus it is equated symbolically with the collective unconscious. The day I read Jung’s reflections on this specific subject, a client, who has graciously agreed to allow me to share it, had the following interaction with me:
Me: “So, have you had any dreams?”
Client: “Funny you should ask, I had a disgusting dream that I’m not going to tell you” (and then she did).
Here is a summary of the dream: “I’m in a red-neck setting, one I’d never be in. I’m hidden under a tree. I’m on my side looking at people. Suddenly and uncontrollably I take a long, foamy bowel movement. I’m extremely embarrassed. I move away, afraid they’ll find out it was from me. I decide to go back to cover it over but can’t find it.”
As we reflected on the dream we came to understand that the client was attempting to get away from something deeply uncomfortable, hidden in the shadow of the self, something “behind her,” a fact she’d much rather keep “flushed away” from herself. Her instinctual dream would not let her get away with this however.
We unearthed the disowned fact, which reached back decades into childhood. The shit became a pearl and opened the door to address and shift a lifelong source of shame.
Jung pointed out that the alchemists considered excrement to be a prima materia from which gold could eventually be extracted. They called this stage in their experimental operations the nigredo.
In these modern times, humanity identifies itself as a rational mind, a fast acting logical computer that I would call a spirit self. In our times, spirit has withdrawn from the heavens and been reframed as the mental place, the thinking brain. Spirit humans hardly see themselves as animals governed by bodily dictates.
In our dream, the instinctual self teaches the spirit/mental self, that avoids earthy red-neck environments, that the gold lies in that which is most rejected and avoided in the self.
Everyone has had dreams of public toilets without doors or of defecating uncontrollably in public places. These dreams are really about our deepest nature attempting to draw our attention to that which we are most afraid to expose ourselves or others to, and yet, like the diamond that emerges from the blackest coal, these dreams really should be treated as holy shit.
If we allow ourselves to own the shit, refusing to be shut down by shame or embarrassment, we disarm our emotional defenses and free ourselves to become more human and to discover the most valuable pearls of wisdom from the refuse of our own bodies.
Gotta go, nature calls!